Marines: "Huh. Riverine Looks Useful."
...for a budget rounding error...
Amazing how sometimes it can take months for a great article to find its way in to my feed, but back in September of last year, Caleb Larson had a bit over at NI that brought back all the feels of two decades of discussions with the Front Porch over riverine and small boats.
If you’re new to our discussion, just click the “two decades” link above. The problem is that the requirements are clear; in any conflict that has major river systems or coastlines with innumerable islands (pretty much most nations of significance) you will have to control the waterways to prevent the enemy from using them without opposition, and you need access to them for the tactical advantage it provides for a whole host of mission sets.
We knew this well in Vietnam, but two decades after the fall of Saigon we set the path to divest our riverine forces and most of our small ship units. There were holding actions and some vestigial dead-end remnants - not to mention the reminder of the ongoing conflict in Colombia and other nations - but as expected, the Iraq war showed this huge capabilities gap that cost untold American and coalition lives, so we had a crash course of rebuilding that capability.
Due to the combination of rigidity in Millington and the intellectual dead hand from the programmatics and acquisitions nomenklatura in the Potomac Flotilla, Big Navy regressed to the mean - again starving then eliminating our small boats.
The Russo-Ukrainian War is again reminding everyone how important this is … but it is falling of deaf ears.
However, those who are tasked to fight our wars … they know a good thing when they see it. Yes, it is like hearing a teenager describe the magic of s3x, but …
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit recently concluded a series of ten-day exercises in tandem with the Finnish Navy. U.S. Marines and Finnish sailors practiced island seizure to strengthen interoperability between the two soon-to-be allies.
A statement from the Marine Corps added that the exercise “included simulated island seizures, a force-on-force raid, Explosive Ordnance and Engineer live-fire ranges, and medical evacuation training.”
In my world, we cannot do enough small unit exercises with friends and allies. We learn/discover so much, not to mention the ability to develop personal-professional networks that can pay huge dividends down the road.
Even with small nations, we can re-learn large ideas. Finland has a population of 5.6 million. You can do the math in your head, but that is 1.6% the population of the USA … and they spend a much smaller percentage of their budget on defense. In 2021 dollars, their defense budget is 0.7% of the USA’s budget. Yes, less then 1%.
Any yet …
“The Jehu U-700 craft offered the Marines a unique opportunity to traverse through the constricted maritime terrain of the Finnish archipelago,” said the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit Commanding Officer Col. Paul Merida.
“Its ability to move the combat power of roughly a platoon reduced of Marines with a small physical signature is vital to operating within the coastlines and creates an operational advantage for Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations.”
The closest thing we had, the Mark VI patrol boat is gone. The SEALs have a few toys here and there, but are few in number, bespoke in capability, and they ain’t sharing. Sadly, our Navy - in both large ships and small - are not providing our Marines what they may need should the call come.
Sweden also has some superb small boats - one that comes with a 120mm mortars (that would come in handy in UKR too).
Until then, we will have to look to nation with 1.6% of our population and only dream;
The Jehu U-700 craft is very fast—capable of sprinting up to forty knots—and armored, offering the Marine Corps an advantage over the kinds of vessels they currently have in service.
“It was incredible,” said Sgt. Idan Urrutia, a machine gunner, in the Marine Corps statement. “On the inside they have screens, so while you’re in there you can still have a general idea of where you are going.”
The vessel was also well-regarded for its casualty evacuation abilities. “It has integrated litter sanctions that give it the ability to transfer 12 littered patients, which is the same as our MV-22,” U.S. Navy Lieutenant Lindsay Murphy explained. “Its maneuverability is second to none, and it offers the ability to interface with any of our blue-water or brown-water platforms.”